Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

 

Two years ago, Eva Khatchadourian’s son, Kevin, murdered seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker and a popular alegbra teacher. Now in a series of letters to her absent husband, Eva recounts the story of how Kevin came to be Kevin.

Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her sone has become, she confesses to a deep, long-standing ambivalence about both motherhood in general and Kevin in particular. How much is her fault? When did it all start to go wrong?

Or is it, in fact, ever ‘right’ at all?

This a very compelling, and dark story, that focuses very much on how Eva experienced her first taste of being a mother. It is dictated entirely through Eva’s eyes, in letter form to her absent husband, Franklin.  It starts at an early point in their marriage when they are happy just the two of them, but Franklin is struggling with the big question ‘What is life about?’.  They decided to start a family, if only for Eva, because it is the ‘thing’ to do, and it seems to be something that Franklin is desperate for.  But from the start of the pregnancy and birth of Kevin, she never felt bonded, or that ‘spark’ of love that she was told she would feel.

The story then goes on, detailing Kevin’s difficult childhood, Eva’s  own struggle with having to step back from her very successful career to be Kevin’s fulltime carer, and continuely questions which parenting style is right. Franklin’s: who seems to be suffocating Kevin with his love and attention and the observation that in Franklin’s eyes that Kevin can do no wrong. Or the almost standoffish , aloof, distant parenting style of Eva, who struggles with Kevin’s play routine, and social behaviour.  The book shows how difficult showing a united parental front can be when you are the one at home all day being the primary carer (seeing everything the child does) as opposed to being the part-time parent who works and is only available weekends and evenings (who may see things through rose-coloured glasses).

This is a book that I would recommend if you like book with twists and turns that make you question the role of parents and even society.  It does leave the question open and unasnswered: of whether people are just born bad, or if their environment and upbringing has anything to do with who they become. It is not a light night time reading book to veg out with, but well worth the read to make you think about questions to do with your life.

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